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SPEAKOUT

THIS WEEK'S ISSUE: -- Seeking to build momentum for a statewide smoking ban in bars and restaurants, Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold has proposed prohibiting smoking at county establishments as a way of promoting public health and boosting the local economy.

An initial violation would carry a fine of $500 for the establishment; a second offense would result in a $1,000 fine. Smokers could also be penalized. Such a ban would apply throughout Anne Arundel County, including in Annapolis, but the regulations would not apply to private clubs.

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Leopold, a melanoma survivor, acknowledged that the timing of his announcement - on the opening day of the General Assembly session - was aimed at encouraging legislators to pass a statewide ban.

Montgomery, Prince George's, Talbot, Charles and Howard counties have enacted such bans, and Baltimore officials have been considering such a move.

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The chairman of the Anne Arundel County Council said he does not plan to introduce Leopold's measure, which would be required for it to be considered, until after Maryland lawmakers take up the issue statewide.

Should Anne Arundel County, or the state, ban smoking in bars and restaurants?

Ban is unfair to businesses

A smoking ban would be unfair to local businesses.

First and foremost, the fines would be paid by the establishment, not the individual who is actually breaking the proposed law. That's ridiculous.

What happens when someone gets caught smoking at a county or state building? We fine ourselves and increase taxes? Sounds like a revenue generator to me. That will surely boost the local economy - thousands of dollars in fines owed for another individual's actions.

The other problem with this ban is it's going to lead to people standing and smoking outside of entrances to affected buildings. This will create noise and possibly unruly situations at the bars and taverns, where most security is inside. Yes, the neighbors to local establishments will be getting good nights' sleep, now that half of a bar's patrons are smoking and conversing outside.

Private clubs would be excluded from this ban - we wouldn't want the campaign contributors to have to stand outside, in the cold rain to enjoy their cigars, would we?

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I am not a smoker. I don't care if they have to stand in rain to smoke or are sitting next to me. If the smoke bothers me, I leave.

Kevin W. Geisler Pasadena

The writer is manager of Summers Tavern in Pasadena.

Idea ignores the Constitution

What authority does the Anne Arundel or Maryland government have that can regulate smoking? When did we as voters and taxpayers give this authority?

No matter, they do what they please and damn the Constitution.

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Welcome to the People's Republic of Maryland. Check your tobacco, guns and copy of the Constitution at the border.

Paul R. Flanagan Shady Side

County has more important matters

County Executive John Leopold's efforts to ban smoking in bars/restaurants while exempting "private clubs" is another diversion from the task of addressing Anne Arundel taxpayer priorities.

Mr. Leopold spent 16 years waving signs on Anne Arundel highways asking for votes. His political literature espoused his leadership and problem-solving skills. He pledged action on taxpayer priorities: education, growth management and bay pollution.

Instead he fragments the Land Use Department and serves voters leftovers from his legislative agenda.

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How about requiring the posting of building permits on all new construction?

Is the Lee Airport property conservancy agreement, which will have a major impact on South County development and future of the airport, really being honored?

Why are home invasions on the rise in the county?

Mr. Leopold's proposed ban is a smokescreen (pardon the pun) and misdirection of valuable staff time and taxpayer dollars.

Maryellen O. Brady Edgewater

Smoking ban is a health imperative

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Smoking should be banned at all indoor establishments.

The businesses will not suffer as much as they think they will. It is a health issue, and businesses should be more concerned about their customers' and employees' health in reference to smoking.

Mrs. C. Donaldson Millersville

The ban would protect children

Smoking should be banned in Anne Arundel County and the state in bars and restaurants to protect innocent children who are sitting in the restaurants with their parents and do not have a voice on this subject.

I have seen the effects of smoking as a child of a parent who died of lung cancer at the age of 60.

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Children as well as adults are very much affected by secondhand smoke in more ways than one. As a volunteer for the ACS Look Good Feel Better program in Anne Arundel County (a program designed to help women deal with cancer), I have also experienced firsthand how many women in our community have bravely faced their personal battle with lung cancer.

Sadly, we are seeing younger women every month at our sessions. I hope the chairman will reconsider Leopold's measure.

Cathy Olson Crownsville

Smoking ban would protect lives

Should Anne Arundel County, or the state, ban smoking in bars and restaurants? Yes!

As a professional entertainer, an illusionist/magician, I am sometimes booked to work in a club or restaurant that allows smoking.

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Every hour I work in that unhealthy air is the equivalent of my smoking 2 1/2 cigarettes. It is the same for other workers and patrons.

The 80 percent of the public that does not smoke should not have their lives endangered by a small minority of people who are willing to jeopardize their own lives.

My father died from smoking-related cancer when he was only 49 years old. My mother, grandfather, father-in-law and stepfather all died from smoking-related diseases.

I have dedicated a good portion of my performing time to present an anti-tobacco magic show to young people called Make Smoking Disappear. I hope that it will encourage them not to smoke so they will not join the 440,000 people who die from smoking-related diseases each year in this country.

Our county and state lawmakers need to stop passing the buck and pass laws to ban smoking in bars and restaurants now.

Wayne Alan Riva

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Md. must ban all indoor smoking

Twelve years ago Maryland had one of the strongest smoke-free air laws in the nation. Today 16 states and many foreign countries have surpassed us.

We need to have a statewide ban on smoking in ALL indoor public places because it saves lives and helps the economy.

John O'Hara Bowie The writer is the president of the Maryland Group Against Smoker's Pollution.

A statewide ban would be a fair ban

For fairness and equal protection, there needs to be a statewide smoking ban in bars and restaurants.

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Several Maryland counties, including mine, are commissioner counties without home rule which cannot legislate smoking.

Doug Tipperman Frederick

Assembly needs to take up issue

To avoid the piecemeal enactment of local smoking bans across Maryland, the General Assembly should finally take action in 2007 to pass a comprehensive, statewide clean indoor air act to protect the health of ALL workers, including those in bars and restaurants.

Jacqueline M. McNamara Baltimore The writer is a research fellow at the Legal Resource Center for Tobacco Regulation, Litigation & Advocacy, University of Maryland.

Md. ban would save 1,000 lives annually

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If we could take one easy step to save more than 1,000 Maryland lives each year, would we do it? Of course we would. That step is to pass a smoking ban in all Maryland bars and restaurants to save the thousand nonsmoking Marylanders killed each year from toxins in secondhand smoke.

Kudos to County Executive Leopold for pushing legislation at the county level, but ideally all Marylanders should be protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke, as urged by the U.S. surgeon general last summer.

Claire R. Mullins Hunt Valley The writer is vice president of communications for the American Lung Association of Maryland.


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